Movie Picks 

click to enlarge The Iraq war documentary Gunner Palace opens this - weekend, on the second anniversary of the American - invasion of Iraq.
  • The Iraq war documentary Gunner Palace opens this weekend, on the second anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq.

Are We There Yet? (PG)
A romantic comedy starring Ice Cube, about a road trip that throws his character for a loop when he offers to drive his girlfriend's kids 350 miles to see her in time for New Year's Eve. -- Not reviewed


*The Aviator (PG-13)
Leonardo DiCaprio gives an eloquent and sympathetic portrayal of Howard Hughes, one of the 20th century's most creative and tragically flawed figures. Cate Blanchett's extraordinary rendition of Katharine Hepburn, and their resulting love provides scenes both brilliant and complex. Martin Scorsese delivers a movie that is a glorious biographical view of Hughes as a futurist. -- Cole Smithey


*Be Cool (PG-13)
Self-mocking jokes prevail in F. Gary Gray's feisty cinematic version of Elmore Leonard's irreverent Los Angeles-based novel. This sequel to the popular movie version of Leonard's Get Shorty (1995) delves further into the mystique of Chilli Palmer (John Travolta), a man who seamlessly went from being a thug shylock to a slick film producer and now to a music business kingpin. To enjoy Be Cool is to revel in the purposefully hit-and-miss slang of Leonard's effortlessly hip style while watching clich characters make asses of one another. F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job) understands the devil of comedy is in the details and dutifully underscores physical pop culture references that will strike some audience funny bones. Also starring James Woods, Christina Milian, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Harvey Keitel and Steven Tyler. -- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Because of Winn Dixie (PG)
Solid family fare -- a rarity -- sweetened with good if somewhat bland performances by Jeff Daniels, Cicely Tyson, Eva Marie Saint and Dave Matthews, and plenty of good-natured mugging by child actor AnnaSophia Robb (of Denver) and a scraggly mutt of a dog. Director Wayne Wang's film adaptation doesn't measure up to the superb Newberry Award winning novel by Kate DiCamillo, but the story is sweet and happily unadulterated. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills 15

Bride & Prejudice (PG-13)
See full review on page 35.

Kimball's Twin Peak

Coach Carter (PG-13)
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Constantine (R)
Keanu Reeves stars as John Constantine, a DC/Vertigo comic character detective who travels to hell and back with policewoman Angela Dodson, played by Rachel Weisz. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Cursed (PG-13)
Directed by Wes Craven and starting Portia de Rossi, Christina Ricci, Joshua Jackson, Mya and Shannon Elizabeth, the film is a thriller about young adults trying to cope with being attacked by a werewolf and their quest to kill their attacker. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Diary of a Mad Black Woman (PG-13)
Creator Tyler Perry brings his wildly popular stage show to the screen, appearing in drag as loud-mouthed grandmother, M'deah (short for Mother Dear), and in overalls as her lecherous, good-for-nothing brother Joe in this strange amalgam of romatic comedy, revenge comedy and evangelical hoedown. Kimberly Elise is M'deah's granddaughter Helen, recently thrown out of her palatial Atlanta home by her rotten husband. Helen returns to the "ghetto," a pretty nice looking ghetto in fact, to find her lost inner resources, to get back with God, to learn how to trust a man and to ruminate in her diary over her losses. Packed with pious clichs, predictable plot turns and biblical name dropping, Diary is wildly uneven in its switch from romance to domestic drama, from riotous comedy to raucous gospel extravaganza. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Carmike 10, Tinseltown

Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag (NR)
The movie depicts a young pilot's progression through the challenging and dangerous exercises of Operation Red Flag, the international training program for air forces of allied countries. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark 16 IMAX

*Finding Neverland (PG)
A whimsical, warmhearted and heart-wrenching film about J.M. Barrie, the playwright who wrote Peter Pan, that builds to a moving climax like a teakettle over a flame. A film set apart from Hollywood's standard sex-and-violence fare for adults, it's a story about never growing up, and never giving up on a place called Neverland. Starring Johnny Depp as Barrie; co-starring Kate Winslet. -- Dan Wilcock

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Hitch (PG-13)
Will Smith stars in this lukewarm romantic comedy as a love doctor, available for hire to help insecure guys go after the girls of their dreams. Smith can't avoid being charming, and he lopes through this low-key film with good-natured grace that comes apart only in the presence of love interest Sara, played by the sultry Eva Mendes. The film's best moments belong to Kevin James of TV's King of Queens, as a nervous accountant in pursuit of Allegra (Amber Valleta), his firm's richest client. The film's closing dance sequence is a hoot, funnier and more energetic than the bulk of the film. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Hostage (R)
Bruce Willis stars as a former LAPD hostage negotiator who moves to a small town to be a police chief after a failed hostage situation devastates him. In the small town he suddenly finds himself confronting yet another hostage situation and he must step up to tackle a volatile and terrifying negotiation. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

click to enlarge Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow in The Aviator.
  • Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow in The Aviator.

*Hotel Rwanda (PG-13)
In 1994, Rwanda became a slaughterhouse. The conflict erupted between two ethnic populations, the then-ruling Hutus and the once dominant Tutsis. A deadly cabal of Hutu politicians, Hotel Rwanda focuses on one of the most heartening true stories to emerge from Rwanda that year. Don Cheadle (Traffic) shines as Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu married to a Tutsi and manager of the Mille Collines, an elegant European hotel in Kigali. Paul emerges as the film's hero, sheltering 1,268 refugees in the hotel and using his wits to fend off the Hutu killers. Because Hotel Rwanda is such a good movie, solidly directed with excellent acting, hundreds of thousands of people will watch it. Hopefully in this way the net separating society from the darkness of genocide will be drawn tighter. -- Dan Wilcock

Kimball's Twin Peak

The Incredibles (PG)
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In Good Company (PG-13)
Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is a 52-year-old advertising executive for the popular weekly Sports America, recently taken over by corporate giant Globecom. When 25-year-old Carter Duryea (Topher Grace) becomes Dan's boss and begins courting his college-age daughter (Scarlett Johannson), sparks fly. Quaid's youthful cockiness has turned into a naturally commanding earnestness that makes him far more attractive as an actor in middle age, and Grace has a sweet puppy dog quality that makes Carter Duryea, potentially an unbearable character, downright loveable. Sweet but forgettable. -- Kathryn Eastburn

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Lemony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate Events (PG)
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Man of the House (PG-13)
Tommy Lee Jones plays a Texas Ranger who must go undercover as a live-in cheerleading coach to protect the squad, the only witnesses to a murder. -- Not reviewed

Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16

Meet the Fockers (PG-13)
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Million Dollar Baby (PG-13)
Adapted for the screen by Paul Haggis, Million Dollar Baby employs the usual boxing clichs, but with a twist -- a 31-year-old woman, Maggie (Hilary Swank), works out at the Hit Pit, a seedy California gym, and is determined that the gym's owner Frankie (Clint Eastwood) will train her and make her a contender for the welterweight championship. Frankie's not keen on the idea of training a "girly," but Scrap (Morgan Freeman), his loyal sidekick, greases the ropes, easing Maggie into Frankie's good graces and into the ring. The scenes in which Maggie trains and then embarks on a knockout sweep, traveling from fight to fight, are sheer pleasure, and both Swank and Eastwood, especially in quiet scenes between their two characters, give great performances. But intrusions of subplot and supporting characters mar the film irreversibly, and a melodramatic plot twist derails it about two-thirds of the way through. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

National Treasure (PG)
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Ocean's Twelve (PG-13)
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The Pacifier (PG)
In this family comedy, Vin Diesel stars as a Navy S.E.A.L. who fails to protect the government scientist he is assigned to guard. In an effort to redeem himself, he decides to care for the man's children when he finds out that they are in danger. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Phantom of the Opera (PG-13)
A cinematic adaptation of the play by Andrew Lloyd Webber. -- Not reviewed

Chapel Hills 15

Racing Stripes (PG)
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Robots (PG)
Genius robot Rodney Copperbottom (voice of Ewan McGregor) dreams of making the world a better place and meeting his idol, inventor Big Weld (voice of Mel Brooks). Rodney departs on a trip to meet Big Weld and encounters other robots. Other voices include Halle Berry, Greg Kinnear, Drew Carey, Amanda Bynes and Robin Williams. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Cinemark 16 IMAX, Tinseltown

*Sideways (R)
Director Alexander Payne (Rushmore) delivers an impeccably filmed and acted adult comedy starring Paul Giamatti as a divorced/depressed writer on a road trip with his soon-to-be married best friend, played by Thomas Haden Church. The two travel to California's wine country and a series of sexual misadventures erupt with two local women, wonderfully played by Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen. If not for the director's cynicism that occasionally intrudes on the storytelling, this might be a perfect film. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Kimball's Twin Peak

The Wedding Date (PG-13)
Kat Ellis (Debra Messing) is afraid of confronting her ex-boyfriend at her sister's wedding. To make him jealous, she hires a top-of-the-line male escort played by Dermot Mulroney. -- Not reviewed

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